The Retroid Pocket 2+ was released earlier this year and has already been successful twice. The Retroid Pocket 3+ (available at Retroid) is the latest in Retroid’s Android-based emulation handheld lineup, and it fixes everything we disliked about the Pocket 2+. For $149, it offers improved performance, a larger screen, and a second full thumbstick. It’s a well-assembled package that will appeal to any retro gaming fan, but the price brings it dangerously close to Nintendo’s Switch Lite.
Concerning the Retroid Pocket 3+
The following are the specifications of the handheld console we tested:
Prices begin at $149.
Unisoc Tiger T618 processor
Memory: 4GB LPDDR4x at 1866MHz Graphics: Mali G52 MC2 at 850MHz
128GB eMMC 5.1 storage
Battery capacity: 4500mAh
Display: 4.7-inch, 1334 x 750 pixels (16:9), 60Hz, IPS touch screen with 450 nits of brightness.
Bluetooth 5.0, dual-band Wi-Fi (2.4GHz and 5.0GHz), 3.5mm headphone jack, USB-C in, mini-HDMI out are the connectivity options.
Android 11 is the operating system.
Retro, Indigo, 16 Bit, Orange, Black, 16 Bit (alternate US style), Clear Purple, Clear Blue are the available colours.
7.27 x 3.2 x.95 inch dimensions (at thickest point)
The weight is 235 grammes (8.28 ounces)
Haptic feedback, pre-loaded emulation and game streaming apps, Micro SD card slot, and screen protector included
Retroid went all-in on retro console and handheld colorways once more, increasing the number of available models from five to eight for the Retroid Pocket 2+. We looked at the Clear Purple colour, which was inspired by Nintendo’s Atomic Purple Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance, and Nintendo 64 but has since fallen out of favour. While the Retroid Pocket 3+ starts at $149, adding Clear Purple or Clear Blue raises the price to $154.
On the first boot, you’ll be asked to choose between RetroidLauncher, a proprietary game launcher that aggregates emulators in one easily accessible location, and a standard Android 11 installation. You can freely switch between them at any time, and for this review, I primarily used the Android 11 interface. Retroid has yet to confirm whether you’ll be able to update to Android 12 or 13.
The construction quality
At first glance, the Retroid Pocket 3+ appears to be a knockoff of the Nintendo Switch Lite. Aside from the smaller size and placement of the left thumbstick, the two gaming handhelds are nearly identical. The transition from the 4:3 Retroid Pocket 2+ to a widescreen layout is a welcome one that addresses the majority of the issues I had with that older system.
The Pocket 3+ has the same layout and screen as the Retroid Pocket 3 (which uses the same older internals as the Pocket 2+): two full short thumbsticks that can be clicked for L3 and R3 functionality, a D-pad on the left side above the stick, a much wider body than the Pocket 2+, and, most notably, Retroid has removed the clunky “chin” under the screen. The volume rocker has been relocated to the left edge, the home button has been relocated to the right, and the power, select, and start buttons have been relocated to the top.
Although the volume and home buttons are now located beneath your left and right index fingers while playing, they’re stiff enough that I’ve never accidentally activated them. Apart from the D-pad, all of the buttons on the Pocket 3+ are excellent, even if the trigger travel is a little short.
Our Retroid Pocket 2+ unit’s face buttons had a jagged, “crusty” quality to them, and I frequently missed time-sensitive jumps, but that isn’t the case here. The rubber dome switches used under the A, B, X, and Y buttons provide a snappy and responsive feel without the rattle found in modern controllers, as well as surprising depth. They’re actually more appealing to me than the face buttons on my Steam Deck, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox Core Wireless Controller.
If you don’t like the face buttons and want to change the colours or switch between rubber dome switches and conductive pad switches (which are softer and less clicky), Retroid sells $5 replacement kits on their website. If you have a Retroid Pocket 3, which uses the same shell, you can upgrade it yourself by purchasing the Pocket 3+ PCB for $85 and upgrading it yourself.
The only flaw in the design is the D-pad. While the face buttons are excellent, the D-pad is only adequate. It’s shallow and clicky, and I had difficulty performing more complex fighting game combos with it.
The vibrant display
The Retroid Pocket 2+’s 3.5-inch, 4:3 screen has been replaced by a 4.7-inch, 1334 x 750 IPS display with deep contrast and rich colours (in part because of how glossy and reflective the finish is). While the Pocket 2+ can play some PlayStation 2 and GameCube games and stream games locally via Steam Link or Moonlight, the size and aspect ratio caused some text legibility issues, particularly in widescreen games. That has all been resolved.
I had no trouble streaming Control, Elden Ring, or Hades from my personal PC to the Retroid Pocket 3+, and they all looked great thanks to the screen’s deep blacks. I wouldn’t recommend running a text-heavy game like Disco Elysium or Baldur’s Gate 3, but I was able to stream Spider-Man: Miles Morales to the Pocket 3+ at 1080p at max settings with low enough input latency that it felt like native gaming.
The brightness range has also been greatly expanded. The Retroid Pocket 3+ has a maximum brightness of 450 nits, which I consider bright enough to play outside, and a minimum brightness of nearly black. The latter fix addresses a major complaint buyers had with the previous model, as some units didn’t get dark enough to play at night comfortably. There was also no backlight bleed or bloom around bright objects.
Retroid has also increased the Pocket 3+’s pixels-per-inch (PPI) to 326, which Apple considers “retina quality,” or the point at which your eye can no longer distinguish individual pixels. Given the display’s suspiciously similar specs to the screen used in the iPhone 6, this is most likely not a coincidence.
When compared to the Pocket 2+’s 229 PPI or the Switch Lite’s 267 PPI, the increased pixel density is immediately apparent. Thankfully, thanks to its newer hardware, the Retroid Pocket 3+ can push those pixels just fine.
The enhanced performance
The Retroid Pocket 3+’s main selling point is the company’s claim of a 50% improvement in performance over the Pocket 2+ and Pocket 3. Everything, from the processor to the newer GPU to the RAM, has been overclocked (which you get 4GB of instead of 2).
I couldn’t say whether the increase was exactly 50%, but you’ll notice a difference. While the Pocket 2+ could easily handle everything up to and including the PlayStation 2 and GameCube, anything newer was usually a choppy mess. The Retroid Pocket 3+, on the other hand, can finally play many of the titles that the Pocket 2+ couldn’t—though don’t expect 100% perfect playability across the board for a $149 handheld.
On the PlayStation, I was able to increase Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2’s native resolution to 6x, or 1080p, while maintaining a frame rate of 60 frames per second (fps). That level of performance could be found in every game I tested, but the PlayStation 2 was where things started to go wrong. I was able to run Guilty Gear X2 Reload and other less-demanding 2D titles at full speed using the included AetherSX2 emulator, but the experience wasn’t flawless.
Soul Caliber 2 stuttered and ran so slowly that it was unplayable, but that was the exception. The community, as with previous Retroid handhelds, keeps a spreadsheet with individual game performance. Flagship titles such as Kingdom Hearts, Persona 3 and Persona 4, Devil May Cry 2, and others ran flawlessly without the need for tweaks or resolution scaling. On the plus side, thanks to the increased screen size and performance, PlayStation Portable (but not Vita) games now run nearly flawlessly across the board.
The Nintendo 64’s performance was also uniformly excellent, as expected. What was unexpected is that the Retroid Pocket 3+ can run full-speed GameCube, Wii, and even some Switch games. On the Dolphin for Handheld emulator, Super Smash Bros. Melee runs at 60fps with only minor occasional dips at full resolution, and The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker ran at a steady 30fps during my testing. I didn’t test any Wii or Switch games, but compatibility is hit or miss there as well. Nonetheless, the fact that some games can run on a $149 Android handheld is impressive.
One of the most significant improvements, in my opinion, is that Retroid has increased the internal storage to 128GB. That should be sufficient for most people; you may not even need to purchase an SD card.